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#OscarsSoWhite tries its best by giving us many token black presenters

Aleesha Matharu | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:51 IST

This was a particularly disappointing year for the Oscars when it came to nominating people of colour. And the Academy has been doing it's very best to show that it has taken note of the issue.

How? By parading one person of colour after the next as presenters - from Dev Patel to Priyanka Chopra, Oscar-winner Whoopi Goldberg and Kerry Washington.

In fact of the 42 presenters, 15 are people of colour - up from just 6 such presenters in 2013.

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"This is the wildest, craziest Oscars to ever host because there are no black nominees," Chris Rock said at the start of his opening monologue.

"People were like, 'Chris, you should boycott. Chris, you should quit.'

"I thought about quitting. I thought about it real hard. But they're not going to cancel the Oscars because I quit. And the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart."

Then Rock got a bit more serious.

"This is the 88th Academy Awards. So this whole 'no black nominees' thing has happened at least 71 other times." Rock said black Americans didn't made a fuss about it back then because they had more important things to worry about. "We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won best cinematographer."

Many people of colour were overlooked for their hard work in film his year. Michael B Jordan is one of Hollywood's rising stars, and his film Creed was a critical and box-office hit. Despite being sure that he'd be nominated and director Ryan Coogler, only Stallone was nominated in the end.

That's exactly how I feel about the lack of nominations for Straight Outta Compton. Yes, the screenwriters received a nomination for their work, but director F Gary Gray deserved on for his cinematic masterpiece. It isn't really acceptable that the only people nominated from the movie are white when most of the cast and crew is black.

And Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation has been the biggest and most shocking snub so far.

Which is why when you consider the Academy's 87-year history of ignoring black performances - only 15 African Americans have won the honours for acting - the thought of unintentional bias doesn't seem so absurd.

In an LA Times study where more than 5,100 of the 6,000 plus Oscar voting members were analysed, about 94% are white and 75% male. Blacks only make up 2% of the total voting body; and Latinos less than 2%.

Surely this does not represent the general viewing public.

Variety magazine conducted an analysis of any and all digital content engagement involving Oscar nomination surprises. It assessed over 600,000 media platforms for Oscar snubs. What it found was this: Beast of No Nation was the most-discussed film snub, with Idris Elba leading the actor category.

The silver lining

The public backlash has been noticed by Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, a black woman. That's why the Academy, in January, announced a set of changes intended to increase the diversity of its members.

All we can hope for is this: that this is a push for progress and a start in holding the Academy accountable for its choices when it comes to picking nominees.

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First published: 29 February 2016, 10:19 IST
 
Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

Born in Bihar, raised in Delhi and schooled in Dehradun, Aleesha writes on a range of subjects and worked at The Indian Express before joining Catch as a sub-editor. When not at work you can find her glued to the TV, trying to clear a backlog of shows, or reading her Kindle. Raised on a diet of rock 'n' roll, she's hit occasionally by wanderlust. After an eight-year stint at Welham Girls' School, Delhi University turned out to be an exercise in youthful rebellion before she finally trudged her way to J-school and got the best all-round student award. Now she takes each day as it comes, but isn't an eternal optimist.

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